Gouschin V. Ephialtes versus Areopagus

V.R. Gouschin*


Ephialtes is credited with far-reaching reform of Areopagus. “...In the archonship of Conon (462 B.C. – V.G.), Aristotle states, he stripped the Council of all its added powers (τά ἐπίθετα) which made it the safeguard of the constitution, and assigned some of them to the Five hundred and others to the People and to the jury-courts” (Arist. Ath. Pol. 25. 2. Trans. H. Rackham). Despite Aristotle’s information we are sure there were aboriginal (τά πάτρια), not “added” powers (τά ἐπίθετα), the areopagites were deprived of. That is why Ephialtes’ reform could be seen as radical democratic one.

But what were the stimuli for the reform? After the battle of Salamis, as Aristotle informs us, Areopagus became a force to be reckoned with for a long time. However many scholars doubt the reality of Areopagus’ dominance. Some of them suppose that Areopagus played an active role in famous political trials, particularly in Cimon’s case (as, for example, P.J. Rhodes did). But we did not find any real signs of areopagites interference in any of these trials. And people’s assembly or ἡλιαία brought in Cimon’s acquittal as well. Cimon was very influential politician so as to succeeded in sending Athenian expedition to Messenia in the short run after Ephialtes reform.

But what was the reason for Ephialtes reform? Aristotle named him as προστάτης τοῦ δήμου who “made away with many of the Areopagites by bringing legal proceedings against them about their acts of administration” (Arist. Ath. Pol. 25. 2). The same way Areopagus’ reform could be seen as a realisation of his political program. The way we see it, in this case an obvious clash between νομοφυλακία of the areopagites and increasing importance of the jury-court is displayed.

See full version of the paper in Russian.

*V.R. Gouschin — Ph.D., Senior Researcher (the Centre for Fundamental Studies, High School of Economics (Perm Branch)).

For citation use: [Gouschin, V. 2011, 30 August. “Ephialtes versus Areopagus.” Yaroslavl State University, Centre for Classical Studies. http://antik-yar.ru/events-2/ancient-civilization-political-institutions-and-legal-regulation/gouschin-v?lang=en].


Jakub Filonik, PhD. Student (Warsaw) 03.04.12, 01:43

[I am posting this to both Russian and English versions of the forum just to be sure it is displayed where it should be, perhaps the administrators could delete one of the two if they believe it necessary.]

Thank you for this interesting paper and detailed comments following the long-lasting discussion on the Areopagus reforms. Unfortunately I have read it only in a translation provided by Google, which I hope is somewhere close to the meaning of the original. I especially like your argument on the causes of these reforms. I would to take benefit of the possibility of having a discussion not limited to the standard «10 minutes after» and ask a more general question about your own opinion on the use of the ancient sources concerning Areopagus' privileges, as I did not see any general remarks on this in your paper.

1a. The main source to these events, which in fact you often refer to, is (Pseudo-) Aristotelian Athenaion Politeia, written most probably in the 320s. As we know from numerous 4th-century sources, the memory of the past events was already very fluid and easily (rhetorically) manipulated, even when it pertained to the events most crucial for the community, such as the Persian Wars or the Peloponnesian War. The Ath.Pol. also treats certain subjects with little care, for instance the emergence of the Boule of 400. To what extent should we trust this source when referring to Ephialtes' and Pericles' reforms?

1b. And is Plutarch a trustworthy source at all to the particularly «dramatic» events, as the Ephialtes' story? (We know of his use of Hellenistic biographers who depended on doubtful «sources».)

1c. I would also like to ask how you feel about the use of tragedy, a certainly earlier source to these events, viz. the Oresteia trilogy by Aeschylus which deals with Areopagus' «aitia» (I could not see any references to Aeschylus in your paper).

1d. Do you believe that Areopagus' powers which we find in the early 4th-century sources could be a sign of the existence of the same powers a century earlier (e.g. some religious capacities found for example in Lys. 7 and referred to by Ath. Pol.)? Or should we rather ascribe it to the extraordinary legal situation of the post-Thirty and later post-Chaeronea era? (following Hansen's remark about Areopagus' gaining additional powers in all the moments of crisis [probably an authoritarian or religious need])

2. Finally, I would like to ask about your opinion on the board of the Areopagitai. Do you believe that in the fifth century it consisted only of the ex-archons or perhaps one would become Areopagites while becoming an archon, not after leaving the office? I like your comments on the aetiology or Areopagus reforms. I only partly agree with one of the earlier comments [which I also had to see through the lenses of Google] saying that it is a kind of teleology (ex post) to see the fifth-century reforms as simply building a democracy [and, replying to another comment - actually the first remark about the democratic system could be "demou kratousa kheir" in Aesch. Supp. 604 (see discussion in Raaflaub, The Discovery of Freedom..)]. It is a valid point, but I feel the need to defend the spirit of the remark by the author of this paper. I do not think that not seeing these reforms as «building a democracy» counts out their «democratic character» in later Athenians' and our contemporary words, if we bear in mind the changes in many Greek poleis of the Archaic period and what Robert Dahl calls the «strong principle of equality», which we can see already in 7th- and 6th-century literary sources. On the other hand, this was probably not the way that Ephialtes would describe them, which makes it rather our contemporary problem of terminology. I am sorry about making a few questions this long, I am certainly an Athenian not a Spartan in these comments. Jakub Filonik.

Роман Михайлович Фролов, аспирант (Ярославль) 03.04.12, 20:18

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